Wednesday, September 28, 2011

gratitude and fear....

The other day I was walking to one of the classes I teach. As I was crossing the green tree-lined south-suburban campus a wave of gratitude just washed over me. I felt the cool fall breeze coupled with the warm sun and was thankful to be alive in that moment. I thought about the many amazing blessings that I have and how wonderful it is to be in this time of my life right now. I am genuinely thrilled with my daily life. Sometimes that happens to me, a moment where I'm just overcome briefly with gratefulness for my life. I wish I could live in that moment more often, so much more commonly I'm caught up in the racing emotions of live that distract me from focusing on the important, life-giving ones.

For example, the feeling of fear. In counseling I'd probably tell a client that feeling afraid is adaptive to a certain extent, it helps us to survive in our surroundings (particularly if there is something legitimately to be afraid of in our lives). But for me fear is complicated, not always helpful but not always unhelpful either. Like many people, I can get trapped in fear and paralyzed by it so I work hard to keep it at bay. Sometimes I'm more successful than other times. This week I heard on our block that several houses have gotten robbed. Now, on the one hand feeling afraid can be helpful when hearing this news, it causes me to make sure I'm aware of what's going on around me. It helps me to remember to set my house alarm when necessary and it keeps me focused on safety. But it can also be paralyzing, because for me the fear of getting broken into is an old one that taps into something from my early years. When we were discussing this the other night MSD asked why this fear gets to me when so many other things don't seem to stir up any worry on my part. I believe the way he put it was, "I'm not used to you being the one worried about something, that's usually my job..." So true, so true.

I tried to put into words my experience as a 6th grader whose house had just been robbed and explain the vulnerability that comes when you don't feel safe and secure anymore. What I realized is that when that fear of getting robbed comes up I go back to being that 11-year-old girl trying to hide her cd player in the covers of her bed to protect it. A little kid doing whatever she could to save her precious treasures. Even at the time I knew that my efforts were useless, if someone broke into our home they could easily find anything I hid. I couldn't stop it from happening, even if I tried my hardest.

And that's really it, there is nothing I can do to protect my life and keep bad things from happening. I can spend tons of energy worrying and trying to safeguard my belongings and loved ones but ultimately there is nothing I can do to stop evil from wrecking havoc in my life. Now I don't say all of that to be depressing, in fact I find it rather liberating. I can't save myself so I have to quit trying. Instead I want to live in moments of gratitude and thankfulness for the blessings in my days.

Easier said than done. There is a balance to be sought, an attempt to value this world and it's tremendous potential and recognize my own powerlessness in the midst of pain, hopelessness and despair. I am always working on creating that balance in a way that tips the scale towards greater hope in the things that last, such as relationships, love and kindness. Those are the moments I want more of in my life.

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